The Turkish Get Up: Part I
The Turkish Get Up (TGU) is an exercise with a long and rich history. It was a staple of old time strongmen and strongwomen. “Legend has it that old-time strongmen taught apprentices the turkish get-up and told them to come back when they could do it with 100 pounds.” (1) Or, what us giryas refer to as taming the beast (48kg – 106 pounds)!
In Kettlebells From the Ground Up (2), Dr. Mark Cheng, Senior SFG, explains that the roots of the Turkish Get-Up are from the grappling traditions in Central Asia. This exercise reinforces fundamental movement patterns, and builds strength & coordination – a need for individuals engaged in combative arenas whose priority was to outlive their enemy. “If a wrestler was able to control a heavy weight from a supine position to the overhead lockout position with absolute confidence, that signaled a landmark in his development.” (2)
That’s the beauty of the Turkish Get Up. It’s intended to be done slowly with control and precision. That’s strength!
Neurodevelopmental Patterns From The Ground Up
There is something incredibly innate about the Turkish Get Up to human beings. There are many movement patterns (rolling, hinging, lunging to name a few) that are integrated within this exercise. The Turkish Get Up helps to retrain these patterns under load while simultaneously demanding correct alignment, posture, and integrity. When alignment is broken, the weight provides feedback to correct it. As Gray Cook has said, “Heavy weight is instructive.” (1)
The Turkish Get Up May Just Save Your Life
Last year I attended the RockTape FMT Certification led by Dr. Perry Nickelston. During the weekend he shared a slide that posed a though provoking question : “Can Movement Project Your Longevity? (3)”
The answer is YES!
In 2012, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology shared a scientific paper titled “Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality”. (4) This study showed a critical parallel between a person’s ability to go from a standing position to a seated position and back to standing. An inability to perform this movement pattern sequence correlated to a 6.5x greater chance of dying in the next 6 years.
Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control lists some frightening statistics when it comes to falling (5):
- Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The most important takeaway to remember:
“Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.”
Fear, even at a subconscious level, changes movement. Learning control and moving slowly can remove this fear as well as build strength. How much more confident do you think any individual will feel about falling and being able to get up again if they can do it with a heavy weight overhead? We aren’t just talking about building strength, we are talking about improving our quality of life!
Now on to a step by step breakdown of the first half of the Turkish Get Up. Note: The first two steps are identical to the kettlebell arm bar. If you are not competent doing that movement with weight, I strongly recommend starting with bodyweight only and learning the pattern first.
The Roll to Press
Press to Elbow
This step is very often misunderstood. It is not a sit up. As Dr. Mark Cheng says poetically it’s a “roll under the kettlebell.” (2) If you are having difficulty with this I strongly recommend going back to the SFMA rolling patterns. This suggestion was made to me by my friend and mentor Brent Morehouse and was reconfirmed during my training for the SFG. Here is a video I shot of the rolling patterns – fast forward to the 6:25 mark.
Tall Sit or Elbow to Post
Now, there are a ton of ways to progress with the sweep which I cover in full detail in the video. You can do either variation of the low sweep which is what is taught by StrongFirst. The high pelvis is an alternative to the low sweep version. ALL of them are great to do. However, the high pelvis is considerably more challenging to do because your inserting a bridge into the middle of the Turkish Get Up while under a heavy load and maintaining alignment and breath. No easy feat – so progress to that version slowly with a kettlebell.
- Take the time to learn the pattern first – then progress to a shoe and then weight. This cannot be overemphasized. The last position you want to be in is confused and lost with a heavy weight overhead.
- Move slower than you think you need to. Kettlebell lifts are broken into grinds and ballistics. Grinds are focused time under tension and building coordination. This is how you change movement patterns and improve them.
- Your breathing should be controlled the entire time. If it speeds up or your holding your breath it’s a red flag there is instability and you are trying to create that artificially.
- Tsatsouline, Pavel. Simple & Sinister. StrongFirst, Inc. Print. 2013.
- Cheng, Dr. Mark. Cook, Gray. Jones, Brett. Kettlebells from the Ground Up. Functional Movement Systems. Manual and DVD. 2008.
- Nickelston, Dr. Perry. RockTape FMT Presentation. PDF. 2015.
- Barreto de Brito, Leonardo Barbosa. Ricardo, Djalma Rabelo. Soares de Araujo, Denise Sardinha Mendes. Rantos, Plinio Santos. Myers, Jonathan. Soares de Araujo, Claudio Gil Soares. Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2012.
- Important Facts About Falls. Center for Disease Control. Website.